Canucks Make it Official: Locate AHL Franchise in Utica

Screencap of Laurence Gilman unveiling the new Utica Comets logo today.

After months of speculation, back room dealings, and legitimate concerns that the Canucks were going to have to shutter their newly acquired AHL franchise for the year, the Utica Comet were officially unveiled on Friday at a Press Conference in Utica, New York.

While the specifics of the deal between Robert Esche’s group, the Canucks, and the city of Utica remain a mystery at this point, the dominant mood at the Press Conference was optimism. Laurence Gilman, Lorne Henning and Tom Sestito – a threesome henceforth to be known as "the brain trust" – were in attendance representing the Canucks, and Laurence Gilman spoke at the presser.  Read on past the jump.

Gilman described Utica as a "wonderful place to operate," adding that the Canucks were "thrilled beyond belief to be here." (I’d imagine they’re also relieved beyond belief to have found a parking spot for their new American Hockey League property). Gilman promised that the club would work hard to deliver a winning product and deliver the Calder Cup to "Utica and the Mohawk Valley." 

Those are bold statements coming from the Assistant General Manager of an organization with an anemic pipeline of top-end prospects. Compounding that issue, the conventional wisdom is that the Canucks will find it difficult to attract veteran American Hockey League talent with a Utica affiliate due to substandard hockey facilities, and the tough travel burden that the Comets will face as a Western Conference team located in upstate New York. So the Canucks have their work cut out for them…

The Press Conference actually had some funny moments. Gilman described how he signed Robert Esche to his first pro-contract and three years later to his second, a deal which "made Robert a millionaire." "Now it’s time for Robert to start sending that money my way," quipped Gilman.

When Gilman unveiled the new team name and logo, the press in attendance gave him a rousing round of applause to which Gilman responded with, "we should take some of you back to Vancouver."

There are obvious concerns about the club’s affiliation with Utica. How long will it last? Is the travel burden going to leave the Canucks short-handed occassionally? Will the team be able to attract veteran AHL talent? But those questions can wait for another day, I suppose. For now the Canucks have managed to find an affiliate, and legitimate concerns aside, that has to be a big relief for the organization from a player deveopment standpoint. 

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